Should I Enlist a Lawyer to Oversee My Real Estate Transaction?
A real estate lawyer can advise you of all parties’ responsibilities under a real estate agreement and Florida law.
As in most parts of the country, Florida law doesn’t require either party in a residential real estate transaction to hire a real estate attorney. Many buyers and sellers simply rely on their real estate agent and the title insurance company to ensure to complete the deal. Hiring a real estate attorney, though, has undeniable benefits.
If you’re planning to sell or buy a Florida residential property, including a foreclosure property, waterfront residence, or condominium, a real estate attorney can help you navigate the legal waters of the transaction process, protecting your interests and streamlining negotiations.
Why Use an Attorney For Real Estate Transactions
Purchasing a home is often the single largest transaction someone makes. If you’re contemplating homeownership, you probably have many questions about what it entails. If you’re selling a home, there might be issues that arise you’re unfamiliar with. Knowledgeable legal counsel can educate you on the buying and selling processes and, most importantly, provide you with the legal advice your agent, lender, or title insurance company cannot.
Issues during a real estate closing that might require legal counsel include:
- Title defects
- Property tax issues.
- IRS or mechanic’s liens.
- Issues with the property detected during the walk-through.
- Satisfaction of short sale requirements.
- Issues particular to properties occupied by renters.
- Homeowners association or HOA bylaws and CC&Rs or covenants, conditions, and restrictions connected to a condominium sale.
- Last-minute problems with funding.
- Structural defects discovered before closing.
If you arrive at the settlement table and discover the buyer or seller has not met specific terms of the real estate contract—such as repairs or furniture removal—a real estate attorney can negotiate and address those issues on your behalf before the final documents are signed.
Real Estate Risks Buyers and Sellers Might Encounter
Even for seasoned sellers and buyers, real estate transactions come with risks. An unscrupulous seller might use a false identity, pretending they’re the owner of a property they have no legal right to sell. There have been cases where a dishonest seller sells the same property twice in one day. These are extreme examples, but they’ve occurred. Retaining a real estate lawyer early on in the process helps mitigate these and other risks in buying a home.
Another risk occurs when a real estate broker says they can represent both parties to save them money. Dual agency is now illegal in Florida, and a real estate agent cannot represent both the buyer and seller in a transaction as a fiduciary. This doesn’t mean, however, that an agent can’t handle the transaction in the state. In these cases, the realtor acts as a “transaction broker” or a neutral party between buyers and sellers.
The list of potential risks in a real estate transaction can be a long one. A real estate lawyer can advise you of all parties’ responsibilities under a real estate agreement and Florida law.
When You Absolutely Need Real Estate Legal Advice
No matter how many residential properties you’ve bought or sold, you should retain a Florida real estate attorney if you’re buying or selling a property with certain issues, including:
- Structural problems
- Zoning issues
- Lawsuits involving the property
- Sinkhole issues
- Estate sales
- Non-cooperative partners, which sometimes occurs in a divorce or probate sale
- Judgments or liens
An attorney also provides advice on contract issues that arise before and during closing. For instance, a seller or buyer might try to back out of a signed contract at the last minute. Or they may not have disclosed certain information that prevents the deal from going through.
There are times when a buyer or seller has no choice but to withdraw from a contract. A buyer might not be able to obtain the financing they thought they could. Or the property might not appraise for what the seller thought it would be worth. Sometimes the survey shows boundary issues or easements that could interfere with what’s called the buyer’s “enjoyment of the property.”
If you’re buying or selling residential property for the first time, or if you just aren’t comfortable with the process, enlisting the services of a professional real estate lawyer to help can make the difference between a stressful and enjoyable closing. Beyond that, they can ensure all contracts are drafted to suit your best interests and that you only sign documents that are legally drafted.
The Value of Hiring a Florida Real Estate Attorney
While reputable Florida realtors and title insurance companies are generally familiar with all aspects of real estate contracts, they cannot provide legal advice to either party regarding the consequences or outcome of any given transaction.
A successful Florida residential real estate transaction is more than mere document preparation. That’s why it’s so important to work with a real estate attorney who can review and explain the terms of a contract for the sale or purchase of a home. And only an attorney can give you legal advice on matters such as title search findings, surveys, tax prorations, and more.
Muniizzi Law Firm also handles title services that ensure buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and lenders are fully informed throughout the closing process. We make sure your home closing experience is as smooth and effortless as possible!
When buying or selling residential property in Florida, both buyers and sellers can encounter a number of hiccups along the way. Speaking with a real estate attorney to ensure your rights are protected and you’re adequately informed when making pertinent decisions ensures you receive advice that’s truly in your best interest. Contact Munizzi Law Firm today to learn more about how a lawyer can be one of your most valuable allies in a real estate transaction.